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School officer charged in shooting

Detectives arrest Valencia man who claimed he was shot by a suspect near El Camino High School

Posted: January 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 


A police officer who lives in the Santa Clarita Valley and works in the San Fernando Valley was arrested Thursday night and charged with a felony for allegedly filing a false police report in connection with claims he had been shot in the chest.

Los Angeles Unified School District Police Officer Jeffery Stenroos, 30, of Mayfair Drive in Valencia, was arrested by detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery Homicide Division at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

He was booked at about 10 p.m. and held on $20,000 bail, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

On Jan. 19, a police dragnet unfolded over a wide area around El Camino High School in the San Fernando Valley after Stenroos reported he had been shot in the chest by a burglary suspect who tried to kill him while he patrolled the area, according to police.

“The current state of the investigation refutes Stenroos’ initial account of the incident and we are now certain that there is no outstanding suspect in this shooting,” police said in a statement.

“No students were harmed in the incident,” an LAPD watch commander said Friday.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck apologized Friday to residents for the inconvenience caused by massive dragnet.

People endured delays as police searched cars and homes for the supposed gunman after Stenroos said he had been shot.

Law enforcement officials now say Stenroos lied about the shooting. It is unclear exactly what happened in the incident.

Stenroos appeared to have been shot in his bulletproof vest. Authorities said that protection saved his life.

Stenroos is expected to be fired for the alleged shooting hoax that touched off one of the largest local manhunts in recent memory and forced thousands of students to remain in their classrooms for hours, the head of the Los Angeles Unified School District said Friday.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines said he has directed the school police chief and the district’s lawyer to immediately relieve Stenroos of duty and begin the process of dismissing him.

“I would like to apologize to the public for the hoax that was perpetrated by a rogue officer,” Cortines said in a statement. “Thousands of people were inconvenienced by the actions of this one man.”

Cortines said the alleged actions of the eight-year veteran do not reflect the integrity of all school police.

“The current state of the investigation refutes Stenroos’ initial account of the incident and we are now certain that there is no outstanding suspect in this shooting,” city Police Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference Thursday night.

A law enforcement official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the case, said Stenroos was mishandling a firearm when he was shot.

The gunshot hit Stenroos in his bulletproof vest and authorities said that protection saved his life. He was treated for minor injuries and released from the hospital later that night.

Stenroos, 30, has not spoken publicly since the shooting. No one appeared to be inside his Valencia home.

Steven K. Zipperman, chief of the 340-officer Los Angeles School Police Department, has said Stenroos is an eight-year veteran of the department.

The day of the shooting, an ambulance carrying Stenroos sped to a hospital with a motorcycle escort, nine schools with about 9,000 students were locked down as more than 350 police officers, sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers scoured 7 square miles of the affluent Woodland Hills neighborhood around El Camino Real High School for a gunman.

Paul Weber, president of the union representing Los Angeles Police Department officers, said he was “disgusted” to hear that Stenroos filed a false report.

“His lies set into motion the largest search for a suspect in recent history and inconvenienced thousands of people for hours,” the police union president said. “If these allegations are proven true, Mr. Stenroos is now where he belongs, behind bars.”

Associated Press writers Raquel Maria Dillon and Robert Jablon contributed to this report.

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